Mark called to let us know that the container is being loaded mid-April, heading for a new country: Somaliland. Our garage was literally overflowing with boxes and bags in every corner. We could not have fit another book if we tried. We were ready to pack up the truck and send our books, toys, school supplies and clothing on to new homes, children and families!
We called our friends, Paul, Charles and brother Reid, and we began loading the truck.
Mark and Mom kept sorting and boxing while we loaded the truck.
Finally, we were done: 17,500 books and so many toys, stuffed animals, clothes and supplies!
We look forward to sharing the pictures of our items when the shipping container arrives in Somaliland, many months from now!
We are happy to report that the books we packed (above) with Mark have made it all the way from Brooklyn, NY to Sierra Leone. Mark received this beautiful letter from Sheku, the founder of Hands on Leone. We are grateful to have been able to contribute to this meaningful project.
Thank you for making this wonderful project happen in my home country Sierra Leone. As a kid, I dreamed of building a educational center for my fellow disables people. When you are disable in Sierra Leone, you are considered useless and you are not important in the society. I felt this pain when I lost both my hands in the civil war.
After losing my hands at the age of 12, I did not have anyone to pay for my school fee. One day I was setting with my young brother Saio at the Aberdeen refugee camp for amputees, an American Peace Corp came to help amputees kids to go to school and I was one of the kids. I was registered to start school on September 2000 right after the war. After registration, I started school September 6, 2000. Upon my arrival at the Aberdeen school, I was told by the teachers and principal of the school to go home because the is not meant for people like me. I returned at the camp crying and I thought my world had ended. I did not have no mother or father to take care of me. The rebels killed both my parents in the war. I am the older one among my siblings.
Mr. Gary the American Peace Corp who paid for my school fee, came to see if all the kids he paid school fee for attending school. He came and found me at the same spot where I was setting when he was visiting the camp. I told him my story. After that, he found someone at the camp to tutor me. I attended tutoring class every day until I got the chance to come America. When I arrived here, I found that people with disabilities were well respected. From that moment on, I told myself after I finished school and get a good job and I will start a organization to help build a educational center for my fellow amputees. Also, in the center we will have medical center to help them with their prosthesis legs and hands.
I want to say thank you to you and your team for making my dreams come true. I look forward to work with you and your team to make this dream true. Thank you,
We are thrilled to report that despite schools being closed and our community being on Covid lockdown, Amelia and Mason have been diligently gathering and donating toys, books, water bottles and school supplies throughout the winter.
Each time we return home we discover new treasures waiting on the doorstep or front porch!
We are so grateful to both Amelia and Mason (and mom Joy!) for their generosity and commitment to helping children around the world. We know that these gifts will be truly appreciated by the children who will receive them. Thank you so much to Amelia, Mason, and the many many local children who have contributed to our efforts.
This winter, in partnership with our friends Bob and Manning from USACF, we split into teams to build several solar powered digital libraries that we then shared with our partners in the Kyamaganda Communityof the Lwengo District of Uganda.
These libraries are stored on a miniature computer, a Raspberry PI. Bob and Manning, and some WBS kids, compiled the material. The books which are stored on the raspberry PI include African stories, classic British and American literature currently in the public domain, textbooks in the subjects of math, science, history and health, Khan Academy lessons, Wikipedia excerpts, and Health and Agriculture texts relevant to African life. In total, there are 1,000’s of books or lessons available to either view or download.
The raspberry PI has a signal range of between 25-50 feet. Any WIFI enabled device can pick up the signal and have access to the material. This is very important in areas that have no internet, as it provides books and resources that are otherwise unavailable. Parents can download books and lessons for children unable to attend school. Using a projector, teachers can provide lessons to an entire class.
Here is a report from Mark regarding the success in Zimbabwe:
“I got an update from Dominic Muntanga about the status of education in Zimbabwe last week. Because of Covid-19 and a teacher’s job action over wages (Zim is in the midst of a runaway inflation spiral), schools are closed. When they will reopen is anyone’s guess. Most rural children have no access to books. Most learning is on hold. Dominic wondered what could be done.
Enter the Bridge Pi. We came up with a plan to work with church congregations and urban centers. Moyo (our Zimbabwean expert on the Pi) would bring his Bridge Pi to a designated location on a specific date. Parents, relatives and friends would come with the cell phones and if they got within 50 meters of the Bridge Pi, they would be able to download a variety of books onto their cell phones. Suddenly children with no books could read books on their family’s cell phones. What was amazing was how easily this was put into motion.
Its potential is enormous in every community across Africa and elsewhere.
It’s like turning on a light in a dark room.
Enormous thanks to Bob Rollins and Manning Sutton who developed the Bridge Pi and are continually adapting it to the needs of different countries.”
We decided to begin our KCDO introduction of these digital libraries with 3 units. Two are powered by electricity and one has the option of being solar powered. We divided up the assembly and testing of these units between three families, this shared both the cost (approximately $130 each) and the work (very simple).
Brooks made the first one, following internet directions and additional directions from Manning.
Then our friends in California, Iris and Noah, made the next one. Each of us tested our units. It was amazing to see all of the digital options pop up on our computer and phones, all powered by this one tiny computer. Henry, Ella and Wills made the third. Theirs has optional solar power.
Finally, we were able to send the first two digital libraries to Willy at KCDO in Uganda. It took him a few tries, but Brooks spoke to Willy on WhatsApp and so did Bob and Manning. Willy and Brooks rewrote the directions in a simpler form. Willy said, “It’s working!”
Next Willy held an all-day conference at the KCDO library. He brought tech support and the heads of the three target test schools, as well as students from the schools so that everyone could test the system, see what works and make a plan to incorporate the materials into the school system. The teachers and students offered some suggestions which Bob and Manning are working on, such as incorporating Uganda specific school books. The KCDO report on this event can be read here.
Brooks will test Henry’s solar raspberry PI. Bob and Manning may update the SD card to include Ugandan specific information, and we will send this third mini-computer on to KCDO. Several of these mini-computers are already successfully deployed in Zimbabwe, we are hopeful that we can have similar success in Uganda.
Looking for a winter simple activity?
Contact us if you would like to build a digital library for the Kyamaganda community. We look forward to hearing from you!
As we shelter in place we continue to collect books and our collections have been growing. Numerous libraries, unable to host book sales, as well as people stuck at home and enthusiastically reviewing their possessions, have resulted in a surplus of fabulous books and clothing in our garage.
Brooks was able to bring these books (contactless) to our WBS garage.
Pequot Library brought a pickup truck filled with books to our garage.
Typically, during the summer, we ship these books to Zimbabwe, but this year all our shipments are stuck in Customs, due to Covid-19.
We began receiving requests from NYC shelters, requesting books for homeless children who, unable to attend school, lack internet, and have no access to books, were craving both entertainment and education. The only issue was that we were unable to deliver the books, and the shelters were unable to receive them, as most locations were unable to accept deliveries due to Covid-19.
Piece of Cake moving company graciously stepped in and offered to donate their truck and men to our cause.
Piece of Cake came to our garage, and on a bright sunny day, with all of us moving quickly, we were able to fill their entire truck.
Partnering with our various friends, including Pawling Free Library, Pequot Library, Piece of Cake Moving & Storage, St.Pius X Parish, Book Fairies, US-Africa Children’s Fellowship, and NYC homeless shelters, including WIN-NYC, we were jointly able to share over 20,000 books and numerous clothing items across multiple shelters in all 5 Manhattan boroughs.
We hope that access to books brings some relief from the endless boredom of sheltering, sheltering sheltering!
South Dakota and Montana are home to some of the most starkly beautiful locations on earth: American Indian Reservations, colloquially known as “The Rez.” American Indian children, like many children, love learning and reading. Unfortunately, the remote residences located across enormous numbers of acres means that many children lack access to books.
After a winter of book collecting, and a spring of organizing and boxing, we were ready for a summer of travel.The drive across country is very looong. Annabel searched ridiculous places to stop along the way, and this really helped our attitude,“Only 4 more hours to the Giant Pink Elephant!”“6 more hours to the Jolly Green Giant!” and of course we all loved being welcomed to Welcome!Camping added to our sense of adventure. Giant American flags are popular at the camp grounds!Our first stop was Lame Deer Montana, location of the 445,000-acre Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. We brought children’s picture books to the Chief Wooden Leg Library, part of Chief Dull Knife College. These books will be shared with 8 Head Start programs located across the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. It was an honor to learn about Chief Wooden Leg who fought in both the Battle of Rosebud and the Battle of Little Big Horn, two locations we have visited several times.We next visited Rosebud Reservation, where we met with our friend Beth,and dropped off many boxes of books that will also be distributed across the reservation, enhancing 20 libraries we helped create at various community centers last summer.Our next two stops were both on Pine Ridge reservation. First, we went to our favorite school, Red Cloud Indian School. This successful school was originally started by Red Cloud and the Jesuits. Its aim is to provide Indian children with an extensive education that equally combines a Catholic education while honoring and adhering to Native American faith practices. This school also includes a Lakota language immersion program in which children as young as 18 months can learn Lakota as their native language. We have often contributed both books and funds supporting the Lakota language program and we were happy to be back bringing more books.After our stop at Red Cloud School we continued through the Pine Ridge Reservation to Red Shirt Table Elementary School. Here we met our many of our friends who are working with Laura to create a fun summer camp for children in the Red Shirt Table region. We brought our usual supply of picture books, along with a few toys.No trip across America would be complete without our travel adventures. These included attending church at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, Hiking Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Visiting churches and museums in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Spray painting cars at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, Visiting Ye Grand Old Opry in Nashville, Tennessee And riding roller coasters in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.From Sea to Shining Sea: One American Summer.And now, mid-winter, we are making plans to return to work at Summer Camp, and help build houses in the Children’s Village on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. Would you like to join us?
During this season of reflecting on our blessings, we can’t help but think about our friends at the Pawling Library in Pawling, NY. The Friends of Pawling Library have been a true and constant blessing to the work of Wonderland BookSavers, and particularly Library Trustee Karen Franco and her husband Juan Franco, who have been generously and consistently donating and delivering hundreds of boxes of books every year to Wonderland since 2018.
A few years ago, I contacted Pawling Library about their annual book sale, hoping they would consider donating any remaindered books from their sale to WBS. The Friends of Pawling Library were not only willing to donate their leftover books, but Ms. Franco suggested continuing their support throughout the year! The Francos deliver boxes of beautiful childrens’ and young adults’ books into my family’s garage, even when we’re not there! We come home and boxes of books have miraculously appeared to be sorted and distributed around the world, to children in need.
Books from The Pawling Library have thus far been delivered to Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Kenya in Africa, as well as the Pine Ridge, Rosebud and Cheyenne River Reservations in South Dakota. Last year, when the Kyamaganda Community Development Organization in Uganda requested Bibles for their staff members that go out to the different villages they serve, the Francos came to the rescue, somehow procuring 45 used and remaindered bibles nearly overnight!
Several months later, this message came from Willy Bukenya who leads that organization: “With smiling heart and happy face, I am happy to inform you that your donated 52 boxes of books, learning materials and sports and games equipment have arrived today in Uganda and at Kyamaganda Community Development Organization. My team was happy too with the Bibles which will strengthen the spiritual nature of our project staff!”
In Mr. Bukenya’s perfect words, with smiling hearts and happy faces, we deeply thank The Friends of the Pawling Library for their ceaseless support and generosity in helping us bring books to children and communities in need. Their tireless help and support has been a great blessing to this organization, and we hope to continue our partnership for years to come.
Thank you Pawling Library! We Love you! PS Thank you for writing my name on every box, here you can see the very boxes you donated, in Uganda, with Sebastian written across the top!
Our reach across the divide from one world to another continues to grow. Today our T-shirt donations, in coordination with US-Africa Children’s Fellowship, reached the Kyamaganda Community Development Organization in Uganda.
As Mark (usacf.net) explained, “Tough Mudder is a for profit organization that runs sports competitions. Basically they set up huge obstacles courses that run for miles. Some of their events run for 24 hours. Contestants run up and down hills, climb over rope walls, splash through mud and crawl on their bellies. They run events across the United States and in England. Up to 400,000 people compete every year. They print about 450,000 T-shirts a year to make sure they have enough. Because I know one of the staff members of Tough Mudder, USACF gets all the extras. We have shipped full 40-foot containers with just their T-shirts in them. 50,000 T-shirts went to refugees in Somalia and 50,000 T-shirts went to refugees in Jordan.”
The children pictured below are all AIDS/HIV positive and face battles far more extreme than any Tough Mudder competition. We are grateful to play a role in the distribution of these T-shirts to parts of the world that personally know extreme hazards and competition.
This month, Wonderland BookSavers shipped 100 boxes of books, adding up to 5,000 total books, to Nigeria! This is our first shipment there, and we’re so excited to be able to make a contribution, thanks to our awesome liaison on the ground, Mark Grashow! The state of education in Nigeria is very dire, with more children out of school than anywhere else in the world; 40% of primary school-age kids do not ever attend school. Nigeria’s population growth over the last decade has made it even more difficult for the already struggling government to provide basic public services. This has especially impacted education, with about half of the current population under the age of 15. In many parts of Nigeria, there are simply not enough schools, and children often have to walk many miles to get there. Unfortunately, even where there are schools closer together, these schools frequently lack proper facilities such as a water-proof structure, toilets, books, basic school supplies and qualified teachers. Moreover, families often need children to go to work to help support their survival. In fact, perhaps one of the biggest factors is that families cannot afford to pay the required fees for uniforms and school books.
Our hope is that we can provide some relief to schools and families by providing those needed books directly, so that the quality and possibility of education might be a little improved for some children. We are so grateful to try to do a little part to make sure that Nigerian children can get access to education which we so often take for granted!